When Ann Keen became pregnant in 1966 at the age of 17, she was “absolutely terrified” because she knew how society at the time viewed teenage pregnancies.
And her fears came true when she was, ashamed, sent away from her Flintshire home to have her baby. Eight days after her son was born, he was taken away from her because she bonded too much with him.
Today, she and other mothers share their stories about how they were forced to put their babies up for adoption in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s in order to receive an apology from the government.
During those decades, up to 250,000 women in the UK had to hand over their babies because they were unmarried.
Many of the women never had children and said the loss led them to grieve for a lifetime. They want the UK to follow Australia, which became the first country to apologize for forced adoptions in 2013.
Ann, who later became a Labor MP, shared her story and said he was afraid to tell her family when she became pregnant.
“I was scared to tell them. Absolutely scared because I knew they would be ashamed of me, they would be worried, worried, but ashamed because it was seen that way at that time,” she told BBC Radio Wales .
“I knew I was going to be really in trouble because the word used was ‘Don’t you bring any problems here’. That was sex education back then.”
Ann was told there was no way she could keep her baby.
“It wasn’t a discussion, it was an order,” she said. “It was discussed outside of my ears, I had no say. The age of the majority at the time was 21 years.
“It was something that needed to be resolved and I had to be sent away. It was all about shame, really big shame, and I felt burdened with it and so went with whatever was asked of me. I was told what was going on was happening. “
She was sent to Swansea and Brecon Moral Welfare to have her baby and she remembers how cruel the staff were to her while giving birth without any pain relief.
“The midwife said ‘you will remember this so you don’t get angry again’.
“I was a bad person, a bad girl and you should be ashamed of yourself and you were treated that way. It was so clinical, not like today. They were very strict and I was told I couldn’t have any of the pain, so should I stop making a fuss and get on with it. “
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After the birth of her son, she wasn’t allowed to see him at first, but a midwife felt sorry for her.
“I caught the midwife’s attention, who looked at me kindly, and I took a deep breath and said, please, please, can I see him and have him with me,” she recalls. “She came back to say yes. She said he would be adopted but I could have him for 10 days.
“I knew every hour these days, but on the eighth day I went to kindergarten and he wasn’t there and a midwife who had been in the study said he left because we got too close.
“She told me he was in that building across the road and that is where he will stay until his new mother comes. I went into the bathroom and she squeezed the milk out of my chest and said you won’t need this . It was humiliating. There was no dignity, no rights. I was 17 and forced to participate.
Ann said her case was typical of the time. Lawyers investigating the cases of newborn mothers focused on the period between 1945 and 1975 – before a change in adoption law – when around 500,000 babies were adopted in the UK, mostly from mothers under 24 and unmarried.
Their research suggests that around half of these women have been under sustained pressure to give up their babies from professionals, including doctors, midwives, workers in maternity and baby homes, and adoption staff in religious and council-run homes.
Ann, who has since been reunited with her 28-year-old son after tracking her down, said she gained tremendous strength from talking to other mothers.
“Sorry is extremely important,” she said. “I want my name cleared. I haven’t betrayed my baby. I made a decision to love the lovely people who were adopted by the son because they didn’t do anything wrong. It’s about who gave them that permission How was it done and how does it affect everyone. ” of us and families and the children. “
When Ann spoke about reuniting with her son, she said, “In the beginning it was a total fall in love. I wanted to show him around and show everyone my baby. That feeling was the same.
“I only had a short time hearing that he found me. Less than an hour. I couldn’t believe it. Every emotion was racing through my body, excitedly nervous. My lovely husband who supported me was so So excited. He knew something was missing and couldn’t help it. “